Search is one of the only mar­ket­ing medi­ums in which the con­sumer is actively seek­ing out a solu­tion (e.g. a prod­uct or an answer). Because of this, mar­keters have a unique oppor­tu­nity to see what cus­tomers are search­ing for and what is pop­u­lar based on search terms. SEM (that is, paid search) updates in real time and allows for more cus­tomiza­tion than in SEO, so it is the best way to under­stand what cus­tomers want. The rela­tion­ship between searchers and search results can yield a lot of infor­ma­tion about prod­ucts, search terms, and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. The smart SEM mar­keter will use this infor­ma­tion as a test­ing tool, and here are three ways you can too.

1. Deter­mine the Most Effec­tive Prod­uct Names

Using SEM as a vari­a­tion of A/B test­ing, you can show cus­tomers dif­fer­ent names in your SEM ads and then use search data to see which of the names sparked the most cus­tomer inter­est. SEM is cheaper than using focus groups and more dynamic than using social media, plus SEM data can show you what search terms are most pop­u­lar with searchers and which of these terms cus­tomers are most likely to click.

If, for exam­ple, you sell mobile phones, you may want to know what type of phras­ing is most inter­est­ing to cus­tomers. You can run one SEM ad that adver­tises “mobile phones,” another that fea­tures the phrase “smart­phones,” and a third that men­tions “cell phones”. Using these vari­a­tions in your search ads, you can see which terms cul­ti­vate the most cus­tomer inter­est, i.e. click-throughs, and searches. You might also con­sider the cost-per-click in rela­tion to the pop­u­lar­ity of some terms over others.

2. Keep Track of Trends

You can use search to keep track of real-time trends and mon­i­tor whether your prod­uct is still pop­u­lar in the pub­lic eye, where it is most pop­u­lar, and when it suf­fers dips or achieves spikes in pop­u­lar­ity. You can also com­pare search terms and sort by loca­tion, sub­ject, and time period. There are free pro­grams for this (pro­vided by top search engines), but these pro­grams pro­vide lim­ited data.

If you want more in-depth infor­ma­tion about search terms, you should invest in soft­ware that can show you what these searches mean. In order to best under­stand what your search terms are doing, you need to see how many searchers click on your ad, what they do on land­ing pages, how long they stay, and if they make any pur­chases. Look at trends in con­text, so you can under­stand spikes, dips, or flat lines in search fre­quency. Prod­uct releases, ad cam­paigns, and events can influ­ence search frequency.

3. Try Out New Busi­ness Models

If you’re look­ing to try out a new offer, busi­ness model, or land­ing page, you’ll find that it’s dif­fi­cult to drive your cur­rent cus­tomers towards some­thing new. Why mess with what works, for those cus­tomers? One way to test out your new busi­ness model is to use SEM to drive traf­fic to it. When using a new busi­ness model, you might con­sider using an off-brand asso­ci­a­tion to avoid con­fus­ing cur­rent cus­tomers. Using SEM and ana­lyt­ics tools, you can see how well your new busi­ness model com­pares to your old one.

SEM is a dynamic and data-rich mar­ket­ing plat­form that also works great as a test­ing tool. The abil­ity to imme­di­ately have an effect on cus­tomers is unprece­dented in either mar­ket­ing or test­ing for­mats. Use SEM to test, and you’ll be able to simul­ta­ne­ously build up your brand and test your prod­ucts, cam­paigns, and mar­ket­ing tactics.